Gray Television-backed Syncbak debuts Zeam streamer for local broadcasters

Streaming technology company Syncbak, backed by Gray Television, the National Association of Broadcasters and Morgan Murphy Media, is launching a new free ad-supported streamer Zeam that’s meant to deliver local programming and provide a streaming revenue boost for broadcasters.

Zeam, announced Thursday, is set to officially debut on Super Bowl Sunday.

At launch the service already has nearly 300 stations and 30 groups including Gray, CBS, News & Press Gazette, Hearst and Morgan Murphy signed on, with station representation that covers nearly 80% of DMAs (designated market areas). It will feature 250 over-the-air channels delivered via streaming across major networks including CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC and The CW.

At launch Zeam will be available on iOS and Android devices, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV, as well as the web.

Syncbak is positioning Zeam as a complement to on-demand “binge streaming,” saying it serves as a “streaming home for in-between binge sessions” where viewers can get access to live and on-demand local programming across news, sports and culture from hundreds of TV stations within one personalized hub. It also comes as broadcasters are looking for ways to get in on the shift to streaming, as continued cord-cutting dampens willingness from distributors to continue paying the lucrative and rising retransmission consent fees broadcasters have long collected from traditional pay TV providers for the right to transmit their local channels.

“As viewers and the industry continue to migrate to streaming, local television stations need to find a way to build a sustainable business that helps them not just survive but thrive in the streaming age,” said Jack Perry, CEO and founder of Syncbak, in a statement. “That’s why we are launching Zeam, which not only serves as a master connector between stations, advertisers and viewers, but will also redefine what a successful model for local OTT looks like by breaking down the biggest obstacles local stations face in streaming – cost and complexity.”

Perry, alongside a group of local TV broadcasters, previously launched hyperlocal ad-supported streaming platform VUit in 2020, which it said served as a proof-of-concept. In announcing Zeam, the company said VUit was profitable, creating “significant revenue for many of its station partners,” with the service seeing average users tune in for 29 sessions a month and users watching content from several markets.

It said certain stations that utilized VUit’s technology and distribution capabilities generated more than six figures in monthly streaming revenue. According to a spokesperson, the new Zeam service is an entirely new offering but builds on learnings from VUit to help define what the streaming service focused on local should look like. As a result of the Zeam launch, VUit is being phased out, the spokesperson confirmed to StreamTV Insider.

Zeam plans to help local broadcasters generate streaming revenue through distribution of their content to national audiences. It can also aid station owners in national and local ad sales through Syncbak’s proprietary ad-tech and intends to offer stations training on creating exclusive content for the streamer. Zeam will have more than 5 billion advertising unit avails, the company said.

“Under Jack Perry’s leadership, Syncbak has a long-established reputation for being the champion of local content that the industry needs and deserves,” said Pat LaPlatney, Co-CEO and president of Gray TV, in a statement. “With the launch of Zeam, we are taking this to a whole new level, providing a platform that will benefit not just local station groups and advertisers, but also viewers themselves.”

Marketing campaign to drive awareness

To drive awareness of the platform, Zeam’s investing in a major eight-figure marketing campaign out of the gate. That includes a Super Bowl ad starring John Stamos that is slated to air during the broadcast in around 100 markets.  Syncbak said the ad will be customized with local callouts.

Not only is it airing an ad to drum up interest, but Zeam is also driving awareness, quite literally, by taking its show on the road in the form of a Zeam-branded van that serves as a mobile production studio. Dubbed Zeam360, the mobile production unit plans to stop at nearly 30 local broadcast stations on its ultimate destination to the Super Bowl. The aim is to both inform local broadcast stations about OTT opportunities and create hyperlocal content for viewers. 

The Zeam van plans to continue its road journey and keep visiting local broadcasters after this year’s Super Bowl competition has concluded.  In addition to serving as a mobile marketing and production vehicle, Zeam360 also represents a 24/7 livestream mobile channel.

In another move to show its doubling down on local content, the company established a new studio in Times Square. The studio will host local and independent creators, promising a platform for them to reach a wide base of viewers. One of the first programs teed up is “The Weekly Dailey Hour,” a live music show hosted by Dailey Crafton, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of Westchester, NY-based band State Liquor Authority.  Streaming live from the Zeam Studios location in NYC, the show plans to feature local and relatively unknown bands, which will be interviewed and perform live. It’s hopeful to launch in late March or early April.

Zeam isn’t the first streamer to zero in on local. A number of other streaming services are available such as Allen Media Group’s Local Now. And larger platforms with free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) offerings like Roku, Samsung TV Plus, Amazon Fire TV and others have continued to expand the availability of free local and regional news programming on their respective platforms.